The Journal

Sometimes Gratitude Has A Bad Attitude

How to face ‘being grateful’ with honesty and practice.  A blog post by Carolyn Anne Budgell

I initially began reflecting on gratitude a month ago. I was in Mexico teaching yoga with my best friend (doing what I love), my little family in tow. We were happily enjoying the sun, feeling healthy and bright. It was like cheating cause it was just too easy to write about – I felt vacant. How could I inspire others when I was sickeningly steeped in gratitude? I couldn’t broach the topic because it didn’t really seem fair that “abundantly grateful rainbow catcher” was my middle name. I was literally overflowing with so much positivity and happiness that I was too much for myself. I took a break from trying to force a down-to-earth perspective and trusted that in time, something a bit grittier would arise for me to work with and write about.

Fast forward to right now. In Vancouver: a massive (beautiful and stressfully city-stopping) snowfall later, intense and icy, dark nights highlighting the tragedy of our homeless and drug-addicted population, the bustling and frantic holiday season with late night gatherings. Globally: people standing up for their land, countries still at war for old and deeply ingrained reasons, the US election and a powerful full moon fueling many of us (me) with raging feelings and hormones that mask what I thought to be intrinsic and permanent in me many moons ago in Mexico.

Basically, thanks to winter, all systems are a go to now consider gratitude and an honest way to practice it.

(My first point on how to practice.) Tapping into gratitude has required more effort lately so I turn within and inquire: what am I grateful for? Such an obvious question to ponder yet we forget when lost in devastating thought patterns or when pain surfaces in life.  How wonderfully jarring it can be for the incessant mind when we ask it a question that requires a new way of thinking, some acquisition of new material. So ask. Over and over again. The mind needs this kind of training. The soul demands this kind of ritual.

Second: notice that what comes the instant before considering what you’re grateful for is a pause. I always stop, take a deep breath, and remember the blessings in my life. And just there, you probably did it too. You stopped.

There’s the nectar of this seemingly ‘easy’ practice. We practice pausing so we can tap into a cleansing breath and new thoughts. I say ‘easy’ because the answers aren’t always glittery and it isn’t a straight road. Some days we want to revel in what sucks about the world or what isn’t right in our lives. Some days force ourselves to pause when we’ve had enough of the hamster wheel and we begrudgingly acknowledge the heartbreaker or the boss that fired us. Some days we pause and realize we want to write a thank you note, others we sit and meditate, others we mentally thank someone or something. No matter what it looks like, pausing and finding gratitude becomes easier with regular practice, whether or not the sun is shining, and whether or not we have money in the bank.

More honesty: Some of us (myself included) resist inviting in more gratitude because it can be flowery or bypasses real issues/dismisses those who are simply trying to survive but the trickle down effect is ultimately very powerful. Know that your thoughts will inform your actions and those of others, so practice from the heart and be vulnerable. Allow your thoughts on gratitude to pass through the full spectrum. Be lighthearted if that’s what you need today. Be deep and raw if that’s what you need. Be grateful for those who have challenged you, be grateful for a new day with a new beginning, be grateful for your supportive community and find a way to volunteer or give back, be grateful for the holiday season and all that it stirs up for you, be grateful for your health and the gift of being alive with breath.

What’s important is that we stop, we listen to all that is happening within and we work towards more gratitude. Many studies have indicated a higher level of happiness and more healthy relationships amongst those who do. Even if it’s cheesy, or even if the practice feels hard and tiring…..pause, and know that it gets easier and more transformative for the mind each time we do. 

* to learn more about pausing and inquiring with honesty – join Carolyn in a free 20 minute meditation for Vancouver’s FIRST EVER Meditation Flash Mob “Mindful Mass”!! WEDS DEC 21 at 6:30pm sharp in the Woodward’s Building Atrium. This is Carolyn’s way of giving back and is the start of a BIG movement in Vancouver…. see you there! *


Carolyn Anne Budgell (BA, ERYT 200, Kula 75) teaches vinyasa yoga and meditation from a realistic, down-to-earth and lighthearted perspective in Vancouver, BC. Carolyn discovered yoga in 1999 in Whistler and now leads international Yoga Teacher Trainings and workshops with Wanderlust Festival and Lila Vinyasa School of Yoga, founded Calm Rebel Meditation Community and offers free online yoga classes as an Ambassador for lululemon. Check out her website here.